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EVENT REPORT

Inside 5 Sponsor-Filled Gifting Suites at Toronto International Film Festival

Photo: Arthur Mola

The gifting suite has become an important part of the Toronto International Film Festival. While the goal remains to get products into the hands of celebrities or the media, the approaches this year vary. Here’s a look at some of the biggest iterations to hit the town this year.

1. NKPR opened its IT Lounge in the firm’s downtown office for the second year on Thursday. “It just makes sense,” said NKPR president Natasha Koifman. “All the events are really happening downtown this year.” The lounge, styled by Karen Sealy of Sealy Design Inc., is what Koifman calls the “ultimate pop-up” with a variety of brands that each have their own branded space. Inspired by Old Hollywood and The Great Gatsby, Sealy created the Green Room, an indoor garden lounge carpeted with Astroturf. Guests can sip Skyy Vodka cocktails and relax before and after a walk through the lounge. Brands include RW&CO, Fila, Kobo, and House of Marley. The lounge runs through September 14.

2. Rock-It Promotions’ Tastemakers Lounge took up two suites at the InterContinental Toronto Centre on Thursday and will be there till September 15. Following the festival's move downtown, they moved from InterContinental's Yorkville location. Some 19 brands fit into the lounge, and each has its own ambassador. “It helps to have a brand rep there because they know the brand inside and out,” said Leesa Butler, who owns and runs the lounge with Debra Goldblatt, president of Rock-It. Guests are educated about the products from companies like Conair and Mavi, and at some stations can select a takeaway item. Pandora has had visitors trying on bracelets and adding their own charm, and Wescan has encouraged guests to try on glasses before adding a pair to their bag.

3. JSquared2 Public Relations produces Bask-It Style every year and removes the lounge altogether, delivering its gift bags directly to stars’ suites. “We know the stars have very hectic schedules when they come to town to promote their films during TIFF,” said Jumol Royes, principal of JSquared. Working with hotel partners, Royes had gifts bags placed in the rooms of celebrities visiting Toronto. The swag included a range of Canadian products, including books by Canadian authors like Wayne Johnston and Trish Cohen, exclusive skin-care products from Mèreadesso, and information about Hope 4 Help and Windfall, two local charities.

4. Esther Garnick PR brought back its Essentials Lounge on Wednesday for a second year, focusing once again on members of the media. “We really want to cater to the media that work really hard during TIFF,” said Esther Garnick. After one year at Ra Sun Spa, the lounge relocated to Hotel Le Germaine Maple Leaf Square to offer visiting media a crash course in TIFF preparations. Hairstylist Alain Larivée offered tips for quick and easy styling, Hard Candy provided makeup touch-ups, and Winks Eyelash Boutique treated guests to eyelash extensions. As takeaway, guests received the TIFF Survival Kit complete with energy supplements, a toothbrush, John Frida styling products, and Vitamin Water.

5. Despite having to change locations just 12 hours before the event, due to the delayed opening of Spin Toronto, RealTVfilms' Social Lodge went off without a hitch, relocating across the street to F-Stop from Friday to Sunday. Founder Gordon Vasquez wanted the lounge to be a hangout destination rather than just a gifting suite. “Here, there’s more lifestyle. It’s cool and chill,” he said. “A lot of our guests are repeat and come all three days.” A DJ provided the music, and visitors could mingle and order drinks at the bar. Visiting celebrities were interviewed, and the video was edited on site and posted on YouTube. Since the debut of the Social Lodge at TIFF last year, the brand has expanded and has plans to set up shop at 10 events in the U.S. and Canada this year. Brands included Bite Me Specialty Cupcakes, Perrier, and Inspire Cosmetics.